Observing Customers Drives Innovation

Dmitry wrote this on August 02, 2011 in . It has 18 reactions

Innovation comes from observing customers. That's all. You'll find tons of product opportunities to capitalize on by observing how people are accomplishing everyday tasks. OXO comes to mind as a company that drives innovation from observing their customers. OXO made it's name by developing easy to use kitchen tools in an industry that is extremely competitive and hard to get into. What was their big break?

OXO's angled measuring cup was born from simple observation. Check out this video below of Alex Lee, the president of OXO, discussing how they observed ordinary consumers using their non-angled measuring cups.

Users would fill up the cup part way, then bend over to check the level - then fill some more, then bend over again to check the level. This pointed the way for OXO's innovation: showing the amount-markings at an angle so users can easily read the amount as they fill the cup.

The funny part is that people never said they wanted an angled cup. They did not know know that there was a problem, so they just went on with their daily tasks. The job of innovators is to find that unmet need and make a product to meet it. The best way to do this is to observe your customers in the wild to see how they interact with objects day-to-day just like OXO's researchers did. Don't ask leading questions, just observe. This is exactly what Steve Jobs did when he hid in the bushes outside the Apple store.


It has 2 comments.

Danny S. (ZURB) says

Had no idea that's how they created those angles measuring cups. I've seen them but never used them. This is inspiring. Essentially what I gather from this is that you can walk down the street and just observe how people do what they do. Just from that you can see many opportunities for products that solve a real need which people might not event be aware of. Nice post. Thanks.


Dmitry (ZURB) says

@Danny - Right on. Observing everyday people doing everyday tasks is a great way to see the opportunities. You then however need to step a bit past that and figure out how you can realize the opportunities. Is there a real problem/issue here that people are willing to overcome by paying for a solution.



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